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LONDON, October 31 (Itar-Tass) —— The United States will honour its obligations under the agreement on the airbase at Bishkek’s Manas Airport, which expires in 2014, Kyrgyz Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev said.
He received more than 60 percent of votes in the October 30 presidential election in Kyrgyzstan.
In an interview with BBC, Atambayev said, commenting on his earlier statement regarding the closure of the airbase in 2014, “This is a civilian airport. For example, you know that there was a war between America and Iraq. There may be a war tomorrow between America and Iran. And what if Iran, America or Iraq one day fires a missile to Manas in response, what will happen to Bishkek?”
When asked to comment on the opinion that this decision will upset U.S. plans to withdraw the troops from Afghanistan, Atambayev said, “There is the agreement that was officially signed by the government of the United States of America. I think they must fulfil this agreement. The agreement expires in 2014.”
“I think that the security of Kyrgyzstan and its people is more important than any dividends, political or financial,” he added.
“The U.S. is a civilised country, and I think they will honour their obligations,” the prime minister said.
The agreement on the base expired in March 10, 2010, but “Kyrgyzstan, the U.S. and other 11 countries forming the coalition did not express their intention to terminate the agreement, and the base will stay on here”, Kyrgyz Ambassador to Russia Ulukbek Chinaliyev said earlier.
“My government believes it possible to return to this issue - terminating the agreement of renewing it - after the legitimatisation of the government,” the diplomat added.
Transit Centre at Manas (formerly Manas Air Base and unofficially Ganci Air Base) is a United States military installation at Manas International Airport, near Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, is primarily operated by the US Air Force.
The base was opened in December 2001 to support US military operations in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It has hosted forces from several other International Security Assistance Force member states as well. The base is a transit point for U.S. military personnel coming and going from Afghanistan. The base has good recreation facilities for soldiers (internet cafes, wireless internet, pool tables, free video games, telephones to DSN lines that allow a coalition forces to call their homes at little or no cost). The base has a large dining facility, gymnasium and a chapel. There is even a library where books and magazines are available for the active duty airmen there.
Several events, such as the shooting of a local civilian and rumours of fuel dumping, have led to strained relations with some of the local population. Regional powers such as Russia and China have been pushing for the closure of the base since 2005.
In February 2009, the Kyrgyz parliament voted to close the base after the two governments failed to agree on a higher rent for the property. American and Kyrgyz officials continued negotiations after the announcement, and on June 23 a tentative agreement was reached. Under the new arrangement the United States will pay 60 million U.S. dollars for continued use of the facilities, three times the previous rent. Additionally, Kyrgyz forces now handle security in the areas surrounding the facility while American forces continue to provide security for the facility, and the site is now called a “transit centre” instead of an “air base”.
On December 18, 2001, the 86th Contingency Response Group out of Ramstein Air Base in Germany arrived at Manas to open the airfield for military use as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. close air support aircraft deployed there included U.S. Air Force F-15Es and U.S. Marine Corps F-18s. In February 2002, a detachment of French Air Force Dassault Mirage 2000D ground attack aircraft and KC-135 air-refuelling tankers deployed to Manas in support of ground forces in Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. In March of the same year, the Royal Australian Air Force stationed two B707 air-to-air refuelling aircraft at the base. It was also deployed an C-130 Norwegianin early 2002 which were withdrawn in October 2002 when a tri-national detachment, know as European Participating Airforces (EPAF) of a total of 18 F-16s, 6 from the Danish, 6 from the Dutch and 6 from the Norwegian F-16 ground attack aircraft took the place of the Mirages. Support for the new aircraft came in the form of one Netherlands KDC-10 tanker, and several American KC-135s, which remain assigned to this day. At the same time it was deployed an Italian Puma rescue helicopter and at least 2 Spanish C-130s. Several of the servicemen from this unit were killed in an air crash on their way home from the base.